Heel Drop Running Shoe Inserts for Under Your Existing Running Shoe Inserts




Zero or Low Heel Drop Trail and Running shoes are all the rage these days. Most running shoes still have fairly high heel to toe height differences (what is referred to as Heel Drop). For some runners, lower heel drop can help improve running form by avoiding heel strike and focusing more on forefoot to midfoot landing of feet during running.

But various shoe manufacturers tell you to transition carefully (and in cases very slowly) from high heel drop shoes to low or zero drop shoes. This can take a while and lower your running mileage in different types of shoes. Plus you need to buy different shoes to even try if lower heel drop fits your running style better or not.

I have come up with a system to help transition from high heel drop to low heel drop running using DIY shoe inserts for my existing higher heel drop trail and running shoes. These are forefoot inserts made out of Duct Tape. They are 7 layers of Duct Tape thick each which roughly equates to 1.5mm.

For this to work, only use high quality duct tape brands such as Duck Tape, 3M, Gorilla, etc. Cheaper duct tape tends to de-laminate quickly. My pads are made using Duck Tape to get to the 1.5mm thickness in 7 layers. Gorilla tape might take fewer layers.

I stack inserts in each shoe - each 'negative heel drop' insert is a little longer than the other to help with transition in the shoe. These are shaped like a regular shoe insert in the forefoot area and go about 1 inch past the 5 metatarsal bones in the ball of your foot. Each pad is about 3/8 of an inch shorter than the previous pad in the stack, so for my size 11 foot and 3 pads in the stack the longest pad would be 1 & 3/4 inches past the metatarsals, then the next pad would be 3/8 inches shorter and the last pad is 3/8 inches shorter than the middle pad. Pads are stacked longest on top to shortest on bottom in the shoe. The regular shoe insert is then placed back in the shoe.

These heel drop transition inserts take about 15 mins to make for a pair of running shoes. They don't have to be perfectly shaped to the insole or insert.

Note: I am an ultra distance runner so I wear shoes that are a half size larger than what I typically wear. So my testing shows that these inserts work best in shoes that are a little large in the toe box area (which many ultra runners use due to swelling feet anyways).

I tape these together and then tape them to the bottom of the original shoe insert so they stay in place under the original shoe insole or insert. Double sided tape works or you can get by with small loops of duct tape. My go-to trail running shoes are 10mm heel drop so two heel drop inserts gets me to a 7mm heel drop. I have another heel drop taper pad that gets me 4.5mm total heel drop, so I get from 10mm heel drop to 5.5mm heel drop. This technique helps me to use shoes I already own and in which I am already comfortable running in order to make the transition to lower heel drop. Saves lots of $ too as I can wear out my higher heel drop trail running shoes.

I've tried cutting old running shoe insoles to make forefoot pads but this doesn't work nearly as well. Old running shoe inserts are compressed in the center and thick on the sides, which cramps the sides and front of your foot when stacked together. The DIY duct tape forefoot pads don't compress like typical shoe insoles.

One other benefit of this approach is that you get a little extra padding under the ball of your foot -- sort of like a bonus trail guard in trail running shoes like I use most of the time. Especially helpful in older shoes where there is more tread wear and compression in the forefoot area of the shoe.

Hope this forefoot running shoe heel drop transition insert trick helps some other ultra runners out there. You might get to try the low heel drop feel before you have to buy it and extend the life of your existing running shoes if you decide to go forward with the transition to lower or zero drop running.

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    11 Discussions


    6 months ago

    I'm wondering, for those who would have to use a whole lot of tape, why not just use moleskin? It's made with a slightly sticky back, enough to hold onto the shoe. You could use tape for the parts you need to be slimmer than the thickness of the moleskin. I'd like to know what anyone thinks of that idea. I'm thinking of raising the heel drop, due to a muscle issue. Oh, wait, now I see. The lift is added to the outside of the shoe, not the inside. Maybe if you have enough toe box room, you could do it on the inside?


    7 months ago

    Any chance you bought a zero drop shoe and felt the toe box was too large, and made a fix?


    1 year ago

    A few questions.

    Are you transitioning the height of these to get thinner as they get closer to the mid-foot?
    Or are they the same height throughout the whole insert?

    Have you ever thought about buying those cheap flat shoe inserts and just cutting them? Maybe also adding some thickness with Duct Tape if needed?

    How do you get these to stay put in the shoe? Are you glueing them to the bottom? And then are you glueing the old insole onto of your Duct Tape insoles?

    What do you do about shoes with insoles that are pre-glued in the shoe?

    2 replies

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks for your questions! Answers below are in order of your questions.

    1. See my instructions & photos for making each insert a slightly different size and stacking them to help with mid-foot transition.

    2. You can buy cheap inserts, but usually the thickness of them makes the mid-foot transition too abrupt. You could try angle cutting one as best as you can and putting it under the existing full length insert - that might reduce the effect of an abrupt transition. But I've tried angle cutting and stacking insoles this way and it caused too big of a transition for me - duct tape inserts give me just enough thickness and stacking them provides a smooth transition.

    3. Instructions state double-sided tape is best to affix to bottom of inside of shoe. I make a small loop of 'sticky-side out' duct tape and that works fine.

    4. Shoes with glued-in insoles can still be made to work -- just tape the duct tape inserts on top. Not as good as putting the duct tape inserts under the insole but it works.


    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks for your response

    Does the looped tape (sticky outsides) lay flat though?
    I meant does it not “push out” to try to keep its loop instead of laying flat?

    Did you ever try Krazy glue or gorilla glue instead of that?


    3 years ago

    Could this work for raising heel pads in the back? I have bruising on my outer ankle talus from it knocking into the top out cup of my shoe....running store recommended cutting old insoles for a slight raise....but duct tape would be so much better (since I was thinking old insoles would be worn down)

    3 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    I don't see why not. You should be able to layer tape to the right height to clear where your ankle is rubbing on the shoe heel cup. Just be sure to taper the layers some towards the mid-foot area for a smooth foot transition. Good luck!


    Reply 3 years ago

    For 1mm then 7 strips of tape? (And does that make a strip two pieces taped together or just one single strip)

    Also, do you have problems with in moving out of place....I did a rough job on the first one but I found that after a while it slipped out of place (maybe anchoring it to existing insole I'm thinking)

    Thanks again...its a really great idea...little nuance things are getting me right now


    Reply 3 years ago

    You're Welcome!

    I used 7 layers of Duck Tape Brand for 1.5mm.

    And yes I made a loop of tape with the sticky side out to adhere it to the existing shoe insert.

    Happy Running!


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome. This should help transition my dress shoes to (nearly) zero drop.


    5 years ago

    brilliant, thank you! The ultra/trail people are always so creative in solving problems.